“However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at.”
A famous man by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that “The mind always fails first, not the body.” For most that may be true, but for Stephen Hawking, it was sadly the inverse. The Theory of Everything introduces Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) as a young and brilliant physicist studying at Cambridge in the 1960’s. Though he is superbly brilliant, in many ways he’s just a normal graduate college kid, wanting to have fun and procrastinate here and there while juggling what the school expects from a mind like his.
His life completely changes one day when he meets Jane Wilde at a party, who eventually (quickly?) become inseparable and a married couple. But it isn’t all rosy. Shortly after meeting and spending time with Jane, Stephen’s body begins to weaken and in the hospital he is informed he has Lou Gehrig’s, along with a projected life expectancy of two more years. Losing everything is very likely–almost certain–but two things he isn’t projected to lose are his mind, and his unbreakable bond with Jane.
Biographies have always been a mixed bag of sorts for yours truly. Usually, the ones exhibiting the featured person have more than enough life content to put into said biography, which is why the movie was greenlit in the first place. And yet, a good deal of them choose to funnel their focus to a specific period in the subject’s life. Though it makes sense, as an entire life is hard to put into a little over two hours, it is a bummer when other life-contributing moments are left out. This is how I would describe The Theory of Everything. It is a perfectly neat and functional film, aided by a very solid orchestral score, but it never really is more than a specific
analysis examination of the romance aspect of Hawking’s life .
No matter if one disagrees or agrees with Hawking’s beliefs, there is no doubt that the man possesses (still alive) an amazing intellect, and he truly is gifted even in his older age. Really, the biggest reason to see TToE are the superb performances of the leads, starting with Eddie Redmayne as the theoretical individual. From the first appearance to the last scene, Redmayne presents the audience with both a physical performance and an emotional performance.
As his characters’ words become fewer and far between, along with the weakening exterior state, the performance gets stronger and stronger. In a few points, he even brings some humor at times which is appreciated, though it doesn’t always fit in as nicely as director James Marsh and screenplay writer Anthony McCarten may have originally thought. Still, it will be a shock if Redmayne isn’t nominated for the big ones, as it is deserved work, and these types of roles are typically chosen by the well-known award committees.
Assured to get a strong look as well for nominations is Felicity Jones, playing Hawking’s spouse and rock. At one point, her character remarks something to the effect of “not looking like a terribly strong person,” but her portrayal of Hawking’s first wife is a strong one, full of resolve, care, and sacrifice. She does possess a chemistry with Redmayne, but it isn’t sizzling, but it probably isn’t supposed to be either. Opposites often attract, and Jane and Stephen were a negative and a positive in scientific terms from a belief standpoint. They shouldn’t have worked, but love can often overcome all.
These two for all intents and purposes carry the movie, which itself is sort of standard and rote. That is to say that though these two put in praiseworthy and emotional acting, the script itself feels like it never really goes past this emotional, unfortunate aspect of Hawking’s situation and the relationship between he and his wife. Sure, it is sad and tough to watch, but after seeing Hawking struggle time and time again with his plight, a lack of care arose, effectively becoming desensitized to what was on screen.
At the end of the day, TToE is really more so a love story focused on hitting the right soft spots and presenting everyone in the best light, as opposed to delving more into the grit and less romanticized tinges of Hawking and his life story. Even from a timeline perspective, this is lacking in clarity. There is a general feel at the beginning and the end with where the movie is in Hawking’s life, but the middle portion has no definitive distinction, especially because Stephen and Jane never really appear to age that much.
Even if this particular film decides to place too much focus on wringing every drop of emotion out of their characters in sacrifice of a more fulfilling script, The Theory of Everything can be appreciated for the work turned in by its leads. As such, its truest contribution to the Oscar race is that of a great exhibition of two talented leads who will continue to have bright futures.
Photo credits go to lyfstlmusic.com, sciencefiction.com, and theverge.com.
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